Experienced Points: DLC, Again

By Shamus
on May 1, 2011
Filed under:
Column

Last week I said the Portal 2 protesters made no sense and had nothing to say, but since then a few people have articulated thoughtful objections to the day-1 DLC. (I still maintain that the review-bomb was like firebombing a McDonald’s for overpriced coffee while there’s a perfectly good Starbucks right across the street.) But here is my response to the people who genuinely object to day-1 DLC. This is my longest column to date, and is the first time my column went over 1,500 words. I could probably have trimmed it down. (For the record, my window is between 750 and 1,500, which is actually very generous. I know a lot of freelancers working in print would LOVE to have that kind of latitude. Ah, the joys of working on the web-o-tron.)

Of course, the same day the column went up, there came news that Valve is giving away free Portal 2 DLC later this summer. No news on it yet, but my guess is that they’re going to try and come up with some sort of activity to keep multiplayer Portal 2 active. The entire premise of their hat store depends on it. I’m sure they’re looking to re-create the money mill that is the Team Fortress 2 store. You’re more likely to buy a hat if the game keeps you coming back. You’re also more likely to buy one if you see them on other people. They just need to give players something to do to make Portal 2 multiplayer an ongoing concern.

If it was my job, I’d be looking for some sort of co-op gameplay that didn’t depend on a constant flow of new test chambers. Not fighting zombies, mind you, but something self-sustaining along those lines, where people can experience the same environments again and again without getting bored. You can only solve a puzzle one (or twice, if your memory is as bad as mine) so the focus would need to move from puzzles to something else. Combat. Strategy.

Actually, if it was my job I’d go about trying to make procedural test chambers. It might be impossible, but I think it’s far less impossible than most people would expect.

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  1. Brandon says:

    I bet if someone pitched Valve a good, workable idea on how to implement procedural test chambers, it would look really good on a job application at Valve. :P

    I think the main concern with that would be that visually it might be pretty difficult to maintain Valve’s design standards with procedural content. Some puzzles would probably end up being incredibly easy, while others would be so obtuse that the algorithm that created it is literally the only thing that exists that can solve it.

    Then again, Valve is known for how finely they tune everything.. maybe they could pull that off. I’d actually really love to see that happen. One of my complaints about Portal 2 coop is that it’s kind of a play once, with one person, and every single time after will be identical sort of deal.

    • Epsilon Naught says:

      Well even if they didn’t release a “try random challenge” option for the game they could use a procedural generator to make test chambers then pick out the best ones to clean up, which would speed up making level packs a whole lot. Which would end up making level packs a whole lot cheaper to buy.

  2. ngthagg says:

    Activision is thinking of selling cutscenes instead of including them in the game? Long, poorly acted, badly written, unskippable cutscenese?

    Can they do quicktime events next?

    • acronix says:

      That sounds like a step on the right direction to me!

    • guy says:

      Unfortunately, they’re planning on doing it with Blizzard, as opposed to other developers. So it’s actually a bad thing.

    • Bobby Archer says:

      From the article Shamus linked to, it sounds like they plan to release the cutscenes separately in addition to having them in the game, or using the technology used to create the cutscenes to make “movies” that they would digitally release. While it’s a possible move, nowhere does it mention releasing a game for $60, with cutscenes added in for another $20.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Considering how smoothly integrated and useful many cut-scenes are, I can imagine there being a market for paying the extra $20 to not have cut-scenes in the game.

        • Klay F. says:

          This just leaves me in the position to wish that there were a law against using cutscenes in videogames. I remember a THQ Exec (of all people) saying basically that cutscenes represent a failure on the developer’s part to tell an engaging story. We once again have to trumpet Valve as the messiah here because they seem to be one of the few developers that who understand the unique nature of videogames, hence why all Valve titles shun cutscenes.

      • Steve C says:

        So I can buy a cutscene(s) for a game for $20 that is locked to my account and that I’d want to skip under most circumstances. Sounds great compared to spending $20 on a DVD that I can watch/pass around with my friends and is actually -good-. Or $0 via a downloaded pirated copy of the game.

        What. A. Deal.

  3. Christopher M says:

    Let’s look at the basic structure of a test chamber, shall we? It contains anywhere from one to eight “test elements” in series, depending on its difficulty. Each “test element,” at its heart, either gets the player somewhere, gets rid of a turret (or more), or gets a cube onto a button. (Or uses lasers, but that’s quite similar to the cube situation.)

    Of these, each has a start position and an end position. The end position is context-sensitive; the start position depends only on the element’s goal: If the player needs to go somewhere, the start position must be on a “player-accessible” platform for that state in the puzzle. Hard-light bridges, vacuum tubes, etc. count as “accessible” for the purposes of our investigation. If it’s about a cube, the start position must be cube-reachable. Finally, if it’s about a turret, the start position must be near debris, and must be visible from a safe location.

    All end positions must simply be visible from a player-reachable, safe location.

    It is perfectly possible to generate procedural “chambers” for tests, wherein tests may be constructed (rather than vice versa, as is the case, I believe, for the designer-created content). At that point, puzzle elements (and portal walls) may be placed and safety/accessibility maps may be determined with ease.

    Now, it would be hard to make these puzzles “easy” to solve in any way other than by limiting the testing elements to one or two. This would not be a system about guidance, but about experimentation – about twice as hard as the hardest puzzles in the game, on average. Basically, a renewable, infinite “very hard mode.”

    • Pete says:

      Thats assuming the generator wont …generate chambers that will let the player trap himself in a ditch or skip six of the eight steps by portal-flinging himself when the generator expected him to play with cubes.

      • Tizzy says:

        At the same time, I think the players would be more forgiving of rooms that allow you to seriously screw yourself over in this scenario, than they would be in story mode.

        The Valve folks are control freaks, and they want to be sure to test their levels against anything the players may try; that’s very time-consuming, but you only truly need it in story mode.

      • Lanthanide says:

        Even Valve missed one of these problems in Portal 2. In the section where you first get PotatOS and therefore press the button to lower the lift, it is possible to place portals to fling yourself up to the exit without needing to press the elevator button, therefore skipping the acquisition of PotatOS and confusing the player when they load the next level and it appears out of nowhere. There’s videos of this on youtube, and multiple comments saying that’s how they did it on their first play through and thought it was the proper solution.

        • Pete says:

          I actually did that the first time. The closed door clued me in on something not being right, though.

        • Meredith says:

          I tried several times to go right to the exit there, but I kept bouncing off the closed gate in front of the lift; that’s how I knew there must be a further step and finally noticed the centre offices. I find it hard to believe a large number of people managed to get past it that easily.

  4. Dude says:

    Shamus, I’m curious, would you still feel the exact same way if some other company was doing it instead of Valve?

    I feel like Valve just gets away with a lot of things because it does them in a way that resonates well with us nerds, mostly because we’ve been treated like third grade customers for so long now that anyone who treats us like, say, second grade customers gets accolades and defenders by the bucketload.

    • Ateius says:

      Personally, if the next Call of Duty released its map packs for free but charged $15 for purely cosmetic “Hat Packs”, I would roll my eyes and count small blessings that at least they’re only gouging suckers and not depriving me of content. So … basically the same reaction, only with a filter of cynicism rather than optimism.

    • guy says:

      My personal reaction to hat packs is to roll my eyes but not complain. I’m not willing to pay for them, but whatever, it’s not important.

    • Shamus says:

      It wouldn’t make any difference to me WHO did it.

      Actually, that’s not true. If EA started doing this, I’d be overjoyed, since it would be an improvement over what they’re doing now.

      • Raygereio says:

        Technically they already did, I guess.
        Aren’t the itempacks for Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 kind of the same thing?

        • Newbie says:

          No they are things you use. Do you use the hats in Portal? No. Not the same.

          • Ringwraith says:

            The Portal 2 don’t have any actual in-game benefits, whereas the item packs for Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 do, so they aren’t the good type of DLC.

          • Raygereio says:

            Yeah, they are actual items that you can use ingame, instead of being just a new skin.
            But do they really add any new gameplay value whatsover? No, just like fancy new hats don’t. Therefore I see them as being equally useless.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Umm,lair of the shadow broker?It adds a completely new part of the game that will actually tie in with me3.

              • Raygereio says:

                I was referring to things like the Alternative Appearance,Firepower and Aegis packs.
                In other words; all the crappy DLC, not the DLC like the LotSB, or Overlord that actually adds gameplay and thus isn’t crappy.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Save for the alternate appearance,those other packs actually do change the gameplay.You get weapons and armour that does change the pace of initial missions.So not the same thing as hats.

                • Raygereio says:

                  So I get to shoot with the Mattock instead of the Revenant? Woohoo! Yeah, colour me utterly unimpressed by the wonderfull new gameplay addition or doing the exact same thing in the exact same place, with the exact same enemies.

                  I just don’t see how a new item adds anything new to the gameplay. At least the ME2’s weapons have slightly different mechanics to them; so the while you’re doing the the exact same thing over again, it does at least feel slightly different.
                  But do you really feel like you’re doing anything new when you’re wearing the Aeagis armour instead of the N7 gear? Or when you’re swinging the Fadeshear sword at an enemy in DA2, instead of any other longsword?

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Mattock is twice as powerful.And no,you get to shoot with mattock instead of avenger,meaning you get 5 times as much power.Meaning you can down initial enemies in one hit(on normal).Thats changed gameplay.It doesnt matter that its not radically different,what matters is that the balance is shifted.

                  New skins,on the other hand,dont change gameplay at all.Not even that tinny fraction.

                • Raygereio says:

                  I guess we’re working under radically different opinions on what does and doesn’t constitute as “new gameplay” then.

                • Richard says:

                  He said “changed gameplay”, not “new gameplay”. The hats in Portal 2 are purely cosmetic, the items in Dragon Age affect combat.

                • Raygereio says:

                  the items in Dragon Age affect combat

                  And I say it doesn’t.

                  I never understood why people would waste money on those itempacks. But apparently people actually do find them worthwhile investments, as evidenced by you two for one.
                  Hey, if you lot can find new and refreshed enjoyment out of doing the same thing over again with nothing but another weapon, or just wearing another piece of armour, more power to you. I can’t comprehend it, but all that means is that BioWare didn’t get my money, so who cares.

                • Richard says:

                  Are they a huge impact on the gameplay? No. But they do affect your stats. The hats in Portal 2 do no such thing.

                • Kdansky says:

                  So I can either spend real money to buy imaginary items which make the combats easier, or I can set the difficulty slider to easier, or I can get myself some cheats.

                  I don’t see why I should pay money for the privilege of easy combat. If you buy that, you’re just a sucker.

                  I still remember the days of Diablo 2 fondly. More swords than I ever wished for.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “But apparently people actually do find them worthwhile investments, as evidenced by you two for one.”

                  I never said theyre a worthwile investment.Just because they affect gameplay doesnt mean they affect it enough for me to pay extra for them.But that still doesnt mean they dont affect gameplay at all.Its a small effect,but effect nonetheless.

                • Avilan says:

                  Firepower pack is GREAT. I never use any other assault rifle now.
                  Aegis above decent. Alternative Appearances… I love Miranda’s, I like Jack’s and Garrus and HATES Thane’s.

        • Mari says:

          I think maybe Sims “stuff packs” would be more of an apt comparison. No new functionality, just reskins of stuff that was already there. Strangely, while many people roll their eyes at “stuff packs” for The Sims, nobody that I know of has ever review bombed the game over them.

  5. Phoenix says:

    This procedural thing sounds good. Perhaps also combat, to keep the thing moving. And something else. But I doubt it’s worth the effort to them (Valve).

  6. MadTinkerer says:

    “Actually, if it was my job I’d go about trying to make procedural test chambers. It might be impossible, but I think it’s far less impossible than most people would expect.”

    Funny you should say that. Have you read The Blind Mapmaker recently?

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What people forget is that just because it has the same name and shares some attributes with something else,it still can be a different thing.To elaborate:
    Quick time events are almost universally hated things.But when you look how they were implemented in mass effect 2,youll hardly find someone that will object(the gameplay part,not the story part of them).Or better yet,guitar hero,rock band,dance dance revolution,….all of those are basically just quick time events,but they are implemented in a good way.

    So just because hats in portal are day 1 dlc,doesnt make them bad.If the day 1 dlc was an ending for the game which you couldnt get otherwise,then it would be bad.

    • Ringwraith says:

      The quick time events in Mass Effect 2 are so far away from what QTEs are usually associated with: “Press not to die/lose health/other negative effect”, as they tend to change conversations more often than not, or make a fight marginally (or a lot) easier.

      • Raygereio says:

        That said I for one still object to them.
        They share a similar problem I have with most dialogue options on the wheel in ME; you have no clue what you’re about to do.
        That and BioWare made the same mistake of tying rather important action behind them. Things like missing comforting a crying Tali just because you took your hand of the mouse, pissed me off. It’s just as bad as AC2’s “Haha! You missed a QTE to hug Leonardo. You’re a horrible person and kick puppies!”-thing.

        I’m not against the principle; it’s still cool to be able to cut of a ranting Krogan by head-butting him. I just have issues with the way it’s implemented.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yeah,and compare that to qtes in resident evil or tomb raider.Oops,you missed a single button in this pointless,long unintuitive,never seen before button sequence,well its back to the beginning of the unskippable cutscene for you.Also,its not like the game doesnt provide you with plethora of these throughout the game,so you know not to put your hand away from the mouse(unlike assassins creed).They are quick time events,after all.Or are you also saying that combat in mass effect is bad because you cant walk to the cover as slowly as you wish without getting killed?

          As for what their actual context is…Thats a different part of the game,and a mixed bag I wont go into this time.

        • Ringwraith says:

          That’s the thing with the QTEs in Mass Effect 2 however, they are simply options, and never required. Nothing bad comes about of not performing them.
          Although they could do with some clearing up what the options mean on the wheel, generally it’s not too bad.
          The problem with getting to get across what the interrupt would do is another matter, the problem being that many are too long to explain is the short time they appear, so you wouldn’t even have time to read them before they went again in some cases.

          • Rosseloh says:

            You still end up feeling like an asshole if you miss hugging Tali, though.

            QTEs are something where I’m on the fence. ME-style like the one mentioned, well, I can understand that being a “choice” because if you’re super renegade and don’t like Tali, why would you comfort her? But then, I also agree that it would be nice if you actually knew what was going to happen before you chose that option (although in this situation, for me at least, it was fairly obvious.

            My opinion leans towards “get rid of all QTEs”, though, simply because cutscenes are when I take my hands off the controller/keyboard/mouse and take a drink/bite.

            • Jeff says:

              If you’re super-renegade, why would you take a Paragon Interrupt in the first place?

              I loved interrupting conversations – which are kinda cutscenes anyway.

              I wish they had that for DA2. Sarcastic Interrupt woulda been fun.

    • GTRichey says:

      I was against them as a rule. Then Portal 2 had one. It was extremely well executed and many people will probably disagree and say it wasn’t a QTE. There wasn’t any flashing button prompts on screen, but they managed to make the required action and sense of urgency clear. It worked because it’s an action we did countless times before this point. It was how QTEs should be and it allowed the player character to use an action they’re used to in order to do something they normally couldn’t.

      • Lanthanide says:

        There are actually 2 of these, both in the last chapter.

        • GTRichey says:

          I can only think of one instance which I’d count as a QTE. The rest of the game as far as I remember doesn’t lock you into place (and force your view) until you take a specific action.

      • Simon Buchan says:

        There is absolutely no (actual) time pressure at all. You can lounge around forever there if you want. And it doesn’t matter what you press. So it’s a player agency thing – “Yeah I did that thing!!!” rather than any attempt at gameplay, like QTEs. So yeah, I would say it isn’t a QTE. :)

        • GTRichey says:

          I’m slightly surprised it lets you sit there as long as you like. I still maintain that it’s essentially a QTE. Your view is locked in place and the only thing to do is the expected action. It’s how they should be though. No flashing button icons, no having to watch a long laborious cutscene over again and it uses a standard action to let the player character do something outside the bounds of the normal gameplay.

  8. Raygereio says:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.232663-Kotick-Itching-to-Sell-Cutscenes-As-Films

    Oh, oh dear. Shamus, I could seriously have gone without that tidbit of information. One just can’t stare at that level of stupidity without becomming stupid himself.
    I always defended DLC on the premise that they’re nothing but add-ons that you can do without and miss nothing and now here’s mister Kotick doing his best to wipe that defence of the table.

    People who keep up with the gaming industry more then I do: I’m curious, has Kotick ever said something that wasn’t even remotely not stupid?

    • MechaCrash says:

      I think Kotick says enough stupid and reprehensible things that we don’t need to misinterpret things to add on more stupid and reprehensible things. What he’s proposing here is not “take the cutscenes out of the game, make the game-buyers pay extra for them.” What he’s saying is that, in addition to the game, sell the cutscenes as a standalone thing for 20 to 30 bucks.

      Which is stupid, but at least not stupid and reprehensible. It also won’t work very well, because Xenosaga 2 came with a bonus disc that had the cutscenes from Xenosaga 1, and while it served as a good refresher, if you viewed it without having ever played the game, you wouldn’t be able to follow what’s going on.

      • Even says:

        I don’t think the idea in itself is bad. Of course if you’d take cutscenes out of a regular game today and mash them into a film it wouldn’t really make that much sense. Also, 20-30$, way too steep. I could imagine some potential in somesort of machinima-esque films where you could watch a story without having to play the game, given how popular machinima is today. I’m not sure I personally would go for that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there existed some explotaible markethole in there.

        I mean it could lead to something decent. This being EA however it just seems more likely they’ll do the stupidest thing and turn it into another short-lived money grab.

        • MechaCrash says:

          Kotick is Activision.

          Also, I know it can be done perfectly well. I watched a video that did it for Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and it was perfectly understandable. But then, they left in enough gameplay to give context, but for the most part skipped levels and the bulk of boss fights. I just don’t think it’d be done well by a company that holds its product and customers in contempt.

          • ima420r says:

            One of the Futurama movies had an extra on the dvd that had all the cut scenes from the Futurama game along with a little gameplay to help you follow the story. It worked really well, and because the gameplay wasnt that great it is the best way to enjoy the game.

            I dont think this would work for a lot of games though.

          • Even says:

            Post-edit: Yeah my bad, I meant to say Activsion. Had a little brainfart there.

          • Zekiel says:

            I think you guys have missed the point of what Kotick is saying. The news article appears to be about selling cutscenes to fans of the game who’ve already played it – so they can easily watch them whenever they want without being in-game. Not selling cutscenes to people who’ve never played the game, or selling cutscenes instead of including them in the game. Now that seems pretty dumb to me but I can imagine some people might be interested in it.

            The downside of this, is that if you’ve played Starcraft 2 you’ll know that you can currently watch unlocked cutscenes at any time via an in-game menu… and I wouldn’t be surprised if that particular option disappeared once they’re selling cutscenes separately.

    • Raygereio says:

      Getto edit because the time expired (double edit: and crosspost with MechaCrash apparently):
      Okay, on second reading it looks like the man is talking about selling the movies in addition to keeping them in the game. Less stupid, though still plenty stupid considering that the only game where something like that would work is Metal Gear. Other videogame movies tell part of a story, not a whole story.

    • Specktre says:

      Did you also know that he also wants to divide a single player game into three separate acts and sell each separately?

      I can’t think of one nice thing to say about the guy.

      • Ringwraith says:

        That was Blizzard’s own idea with Starcraft II, as they realised they were planning so much stuff that if they waited until they finished it all it would take even longer for them to release it.
        It’s going for an expansion pack route anyway.

        • Specktre says:

          Conceded.

          I have not played the Starcraft games honestly, so I don’t know the details of those. I simply heard it was Kotick’s idea for, well, any game was my understanding.

        • woofty says:

          I am going to disagree a bit here. Initially SCII was going to be 3 Acts. Note the use of the word Act. Now, I might be getting to technical, but the term Act I would think of referring to a separation of a single performance. In this case, a game, and not a play, etcetera. Bizzard changed from 3 acts to 3 separate games. Each game dealing with what would have been an, “Act.”

          So, when some one tells me they are going to sell an Act, a red flag goes up for me. This is taking a whole game, breaking it into separate its separate stages. I am not interested in paying for the intro, climax, and finale as separate games. Making a game into a trilogy I can handle, but separate acts? This is a big Negative.

      • Andrew B says:

        Cough HL2 eps1,2&3 cough

        • woofty says:

          The funny thing about HL2, if I remember correctly, the developers said they wanted to do more of an Act I,II, and III product, but wound up dropping it in favor of a full game. They wanted to do more, and tell more of a story, and if they had broken the game up into short episodes, it would not have worked. Their story would have been bland, and much to choppy otherwise.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        *sigh*This is exactly what I was talking about above.Fear did basically this,but in such a bad way that its almost offensive.If it wasnt for the great ai in that game,Id be really pissed about the “story” they tried to sell.Blizzard,on the other hand,made a huuuge game,larger than starcraft 1,and people are bashing on them because they wanted to perfect this chapter before moving on to the next one two,which should be just as big.Yeah,cliffhanger on some shoddy bed time story is ok,but three huge epic tales sold separately is not?

        • Klay F. says:

          Don’t forget that if Blizzard insisted on perfecting all three campaigns before release, we would be waiting at the very least until 2016.

          I had already waited 12 years for it to come out. The only thing that kept Starcraft 2 from becoming a new Duke Nukem Forever was that Blizzard refused to admit there were even working on the game until they were nearly done.

  9. Irridium says:

    According to IGN, the DLC will be new test chambers, leaderboards, and challenge modes for single and multiplayer.

  10. WickedArtist says:

    A way to make procedural test chambers? I’ve got a better idea. Just make GLaDOS. She would do that for you, and also make you play them. Forever.

    I honestly don’t see a problem with what Valve has done. I tried playing devil’s advocate last time the issue was raised, and see if I can gain some understanding on the opposing side of the argument, but that didn’t work.

    I think most of the arguments against DLC are made out of the sense of entitlement that so many gamers seem to possess. However, I still wonder if some people are just feeling like Valve are trying to exploit them by offering overpriced content. I can understand how that might create the impression that Valve think very little of their customers.

    Don’t certain people get similarly upset when a game objectifies women in a way that feels exploitative and derogatory not just to women in general, but to the players as well? I am not trying to open another all-too-familiar can of worms here, but rather to draw a possible parallel.

    What do you think this DLC say about the way Valve think of their intended audience, if it says anything at all?

    P.S.
    Selling hats to raise funds for support of Japan? Big points in my book for Valve, as well a creative and beneficial way to use DLC.

    P.P.S.
    I already made this joke at the top of the post. My memory is not working either.

    • Agreed, basically my rationale was “This is so ridiculously overpriced Valve is obviously trying to exploit people and therefore really doesn’t think highly of us”. While I’m still not convinced that isn’t true, and while I still can’t claim to like the DLC idea at all, this article has basically convinced me that Devil’s Advocate isn’t a strong position in terms of legitimate reasons to object versus personal preference.

      Of course given last time I talked about this proved that the Pro DLC or rather pro in-game store crowd included just as many raging idiots who couldn’t form a coherent argument and so took to simply hurling insults, I feel slightly better that I’m at least not being intellectually outmaneuvered here, but rather convinced it’s not a battle worth fighting.

  11. Zak McKracken says:

    “If other players want to pay for this DLC and the company is willing to sell it, why do you feel the need to demand that the transaction not take place?”

    I don’t … ohh … well, yes I do, I guess, and I don’t know why. I don’t even have the game, and I don’t consider myself very malicious either. Actually, I can tell you no good reason. But I still have this feeling that I’d like it better if these things didn’t exist.

    Why? Maybe the reason is this: If everyone starts selling DLC (or whatchacallit), then game companies will start to expect people to do so, and fellow gamers, too. This can (in the irrational universe of psychology from which above-mentioned feeling arises)
    [internal rant]
    lead to a world where I can’t just buy a game, play it, sell it when I don’t like it anymore, or play it with others, knowing that it’ll work just fine. Instead I’ll be offered trinkets that are good for nothing, for lots of money, and people’ll be dissapointed if I don’t take them. All my gamer friends will succumb to the urge to consume, and before long, they’ll look at me, shake their heads (their hats too, haha) and wonder why I’m not wearing one of ’em fancy hats, because everyone’s got one these days. Then there’ll be game “expansions” which do not much but cost a lot, and make it impossible to play with anyone who doesn’t have the same expansion too, so I’ll have to buy those too. Playing games with friends will be like trying to explain to the nice woman in the supermarket, that, no, I do not have a customer card, I don’t want one and you can keep your stupid points and stuff because I’m not collecting those either, and I don’t want you to bless me with regular updates on cheap cheap deals for faithful customers, I just came here to shop, dammit! Why don’t just everyone see how stupid this system is, stop playing along, and then we can go back to normal already!
    [/internal rant]

    Hmm… yes, I think that’s about what goes on in my mind if someone talks about DLC. Does it make any sense? I won’t go into that now, because I’ve just been ranting. Need to cool down first.

    • Shamus says:

      I am very sympathetic to your internal rant.

      The day 1 DLC for the EA games stuff gives me a similar feeling. Removing party members and guns from a game and then selling them extra. It’s not just raising the price of a game by $10, it’s raising it by $10 and then giving you a bunch of faffing about and account creation and downloading and activating before you can have your thing.

      It’s a slippery slope / boiling frog problem, and judging by how people responded to DRM, I don’t think the gaming community as a whole has the memory or principles to cope with it. It’s another reason I was so frustrated by the review bomb. Bobby Kotick* will look at project ten dollar and compare it to Portal 2 and conclude…? I have no idea. That gamers only want DLC that is hooked into single-player, is sold in-game, costs more than $5, and impacts game balance.

      * A hypothetical Bobby Kotick that follows this sort of news.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Simple fix – make the account creation and faffing about to be mandatory regardless of DLC. :P

        • Shamus says:

          I don’t know which outcome I fear more: Valve controls digital distribution uncontested, or the one where we have an account for every publisher.

          • Ben says:

            I was recently looking at the terms of the EA store and really I’m convinced that having Valve mostly in control is probably better then the alternative as hugely worrying as that is.

            The other thing about a single (or a small number) of digital distribution platforms is that the worst case scenario of shutting down authentication serves is unlikely to happen. Valve’s making about 3 billion annually with Steam (according to an estimate from Forbes)so I can make a purchase on Steam and be reasonably certain that Valve isn’t going to fold tomorrow.

            I don’t want to make the claim that Valve is “one of the good guys” because they are a business just like any other but given how other companies have treated gamers with regards to DRM in the past I think Valve is one of the least scary alternatives.

            Also somewhat related, a quick plug for the Amazon game download service, the selection isn’t that good but what there is has better prices then I’ve seen pretty much down the line. The client is pretty inobtrusive and the terms are unlimited downloads, the biggest potential downside compared to Steam, you get whatever the CD has in terms of DRM whereas games on Steam typically use only Steam DRM.

            • GTRichey says:

              “…the biggest potential downside compared to Steam, you get whatever the CD has in terms of DRM whereas games on Steam typically use only Steam DRM.”

              This unfortunately is less the case as time goes. I have games purchased on steam that require Games for Windows Live, random Ubisoft stuff that acts more or less like malware (constantly has to ask for permission from Ubisoft to let me play my single player game and if the authentication fails for any reason gives me a white screen which forces me to quit the program entirely). Those are the worst offenders, but there’s others that require CD Keys, accounts that the DLC is tied to etc. It’s getting pretty bad really.

              • X2-Eliah says:

                Actually, this. Nowadays, you can only hope for steam-only-drm in steam games if they were designed to Require Steam – like New Vegas. If the disc version has a key check, or GFWL, or securom or something else, then it is a very high chance that the Steam version also has all that.

          • Atarlost says:

            You know, pretty much everything in the roguelike genre is under either the GPL or an older free license. And it’s got procedural content. No account creation and faffing about unless you want to register an account at the forums. No 60$ pricetags for a dozen hours of gameplay. Australians even get to keep their children.

            There’s other stuff under GPL as well. Like brown shooters and turn based wargames.

            Then there’s stuff like Dwarf Fortress that is free in the financial sense even if it’s not copyleft.

            Join us. Unless pointing out that there are alternatives to paying through the nose for trojan DRM would lose you your paid column at the Escapist that is. Principled stands are all well and good, but you have a family and free games don’t buy adds.

            • Zak McKracken says:

              That’s more or less the path I’m going these days, although I did not conciously choose it. “Oh, World of Goo looks like fun, let’s check it out, no DRM, yeah, I’ll buy it!” and so on … also logged lots of hours in Wesnoth.
              But let’s face it: There’s a solid difference between games that cost 60$ and games that cost $10 or nothing. Not something I could not do without, but something I understand people don’t want to forsake in their games.

            • X2-Eliah says:

              What if he wants to play a good game now and then too? Or a game that’s not so crushingly indie / 10+ years old ?

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Then you pay for portal 2,and wait another few years for valve to finally release episode 3.Unless you are starcraft fan in which case you only wait for one year before heart of the swarm.Or if you are a wow fan,in which case you wont have time to read this.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        OK, so here’s a theory: Lots of likeminded people stopped hoping long ago that EA and consorts would abandon their course, and also had to witness how millions of customers happily went along, like lemmings (stupid, stupid consumers!). Now, they somehow hoped that Portal 2 was better than that, and then were shocked to see that it, too, had DLC. It doesn’t matter that the Portal 2 DLC is implemented in a nicer way than elsewhere if you’re against DLC on principle. And dissappointment’s even bigger if you had already started to hope that this coming game would show the world how you can make a good thing without following the stupid trend.
        So I can sort of understand that this type of frustration makes one do stuff like review-bombing. It’s just a statistical effect. Frustrate or anger a hundred thousand people, and one thousand of them will do something inconsiderate. I mean, it’s not like they set fire to valve, they just shouted unfriendly stuff on the internet.

        OK, so I didn’t really know a lot about Portal 2 before it came out, so I wasn’t shocked really, more like “ok, so one more to fall …”.
        I do remember, though, how I felt about Starcraft II. Stracraft I was, in terms of respecting the customer, a glowing example of things done right. [here I removed a very sentimental review of all that was good in SC1 and not good in SC2]. SC II was not. That is just so frustrating.
        I know I’m throwing DRM and DLC together here, but the basic feeling is the same “there’s something I don’t like, and everyone’s gonna do it if it doesn’t fail, so I want it to fail. And now the one game I thought would get it right went and deserted the Good Cause”. That feels like betrayal, and EA isn’t even able to betray you anymore, so why bother about them?

        You are of course right in saying that that’s no reason talk down a game that does it better than others, but first this isn’t about reason and then again, I think it doesn’t even matter. Because (ok, I didn’t actually check, correct me if I’m wrong) other games have been review-bombed for DLC and DRM reasons, and that has not “helped” either. We’ll probably have to accept that most people don’t even care about these things so much. There’s a glowing review in your favourite game magazine/site => you buy the game. That’s it.

        Damn, I ranted again.

        • Well stated. I feel like this all the time.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          But it does matter a lot how dlc was implemented.People should be praising portal for it,because if they do,maybe someone will take a hint and instead of new endings,quests and weapons,theyll make their dlcs about skins as well.Those are easier to make,so its a plus for the developer,and require a solid game in order for people to want them,so its a plus for the customer.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            What I meant with “it doesn’t really matter”: The few who are concerned about DLC do not influence the rest of the industry (We know this because games are full of bad DLC these days, and the business model still works). Even less will any subgroup be able to change things (namely those who worry about DLC but are not opposed on principle and try to be constructive about it — i.e. the few people who rant on the internet while being reasonable at the same time! veeery small subgroup!) I would like to think otherwise (and refuse to stop worrying and buy what everyone else buys) but that choice will not influence the course of things.

            … Except if things should actually go my way some day. Then I’ll be all up in people’s ears “see? I told you so! My boycott totally worked!”. Very annoying. I’ll try to hold myself back. Maybe I’d rather go and play all the games I’ll be able to get without harassment. Or I’ll look for something else to complain about. Like lack of stories in games … Yeah, I think I’ll do the complaining thing, that’s what I do best.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Welcome to my world.Thats what I felt about patching and fast internet years ago.And just look at the state of games now.Half finished alpha versions sold at full prices,so that they could eventually be patched later,if the company feels like it.

      Im not saying patching is bad,heck no.But when developers rely on them and simply go “Meh,we will fix it with a patch.Ship it” its bad.Really bad.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I mostly avoided that problem by never buying games that had just entered the market. Lots of advantages: You pay less for a game, it’s already patched up well, lots of people have played it and if it’s horrible, you know already. Also, you don’t necessarily need the newest fastest PC.
        I’ve never paid more than half the “new” price for a game, and frankly I think they’re too expensive anyway. When you’re a schoolkid or a student you have the time but not the money, when you finally have a job you’ve got the money but not the time. That is at least my story.
        But then, if I’m not ready to put lots of money into gaming, I’m probably also irrelevant to the gaming industry. *sigh*!

        • Khizan says:

          If you’re not willing to spend money, of course you’re irrelevant.

          And you should be irrelevant to their decisions. They’re businesses. They need to make money. So it’s pretty obvious that they’re not going to be taking the “nah, not going to buy a new game, I’ll just wait a few years and get it on discount” audience into their business plans.

          • mac says:

            Not quite irrelevant. If that were so, they wouldn’t be selling discount games.

            The “I’ll buy it on discount” customers do add money to the industry. It’s not as much per game, but I imagine many of these people are like me as a teenager – I had a certain amount of income I was willing to spend on gaming, and stretched that as far as possible. Buying discount games didn’t make me spend less, it meant I got more games.

            The industry also has to take these customers into account because they want to convert them into “OMG new game do want” customers, and because they want to prevent members of the latter group from becoming the former.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Mac already said it. If I’m buying the game at a later time, I’m still paying money for it. And the better a game in the long run, the more copies will be sold a year or two after the release, and that can become significant, otherwise there would be no discount offers for older games.
            Also: I would be spending a lot more on games if I wasn’t put off by DRM and DLC and activation and denying people to set up their own server, or sell the game when they’ve had enough. It severely reduces the value that games have for me.
            On the other hand: If WOW manages to convince people to pay an amount per 3-month-subscription that I wouldn’t pay to own a game (or have they become cheaper? haven’t checked in a while) … well, that’s a lot more money earned than by adjusting to my taste and selling two or three games per year at half price to me. So I understand why they’re going after that money first. Which leads us to the initial post in this thread.

  12. AGrey says:

    I think releasing some sort of level editor that would allow players to create custom test chambers for other people to play would be exactly what you’re looking for.

    that, or test chambers that aren’t co-op, but are still multiplayer: Like it’s two players in the same room trying to solve their half of the puzzle before the other player does, sabotaging eachother as they go.

    • There are ways to turn the Alien Swarm level editor into a Portal 2 one. I’ve done it, the new entities are great fun. Of course hammer is rather user-unfriendly, so a Portal 2 specific one could be good.

    • GTRichey says:

      I would love this. Editors and SDKs generally generate a lot of good content. The only drawback to this solution is the complete lack of testing compared to what Valve carries out. It’s unavoidable because random people using a level editor can’t organise lots of playtesters that they can observe and see what could be better in their levels. I definitely think an editor should be released but I highly doubt we’d get content from this that’s at the quality we’re used to, so I wouldn’t want to see Valve do this and not produce more content themselves as well.

      • Someone says:

        Um, TF2? You know, that other game with a hat store?

        They basically already have community modders and mapmakers making the whole game for them, one update at a time, including hats. The Valve TF2 team right now is just three guys, doing quality control and writing comics and funny posts for the blog.

        I won’t be surprised at all to see them taking the similar approach in Portal 2, the hat store was just a start.

        • GTRichey says:

          TF2 is a very different beast compared to Portal. Making a map for a competitive game like TF2 is a simpler in a lot of ways than making ‘test chambers’. Chambers in Portal take a lot to hit that spot in between the solution being too obvious and being impossibly difficult and the only way to be sure you’ve hit that spot is with a lot of observed testing. I could see them maybe taking the better fan made maps and polishing them, running them through playtesting before releasing them as an official update. I can’t see them simply relying on fans to keep the flow of high quality chambers coming.

          • Someone says:

            All I can say to this is that I’ve seen a lot of good mappacks for the original Portal, a lot of them exceeding the length of the vanilla “campaign”. I trust the community to have enough talented mappers (testmakers?) to put out a steady stream of good content.

            One problem I can see with Portal is that, while TF2 maps are virtually “infinite”, and can be played over and over again with roughly the same amount of resulting fun, test chambers are a one-time thing. This, perhaps, can be alleviated with various challenge modes, like in the original Portal, but exactly how much fiddly challenges the coop players are willing to put up with, I cannot say.

            P.S. Come to think of it, the main game may have set up the story for this, in that one bit where Weatley mentions hundreds of unused test chambers he found, but that’s just my speculation.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      I look forward to all the phallic portal chambers to come.

      You know someone will do that. Especially since the new portal gel demands it.

      Also, I am very, very sorry, but I know you can’t un-see that.

  13. Stranger says:

    Hmmm. I have only mucked with “DLC” a few times in my lifetime, but they’ve varied considerably.

    – Fable 2: DLC packs which allowed one to screw with the ending to the original game to negate the “cost”, cosmetic items which negated the “cost” of using food as healing items instead of potions, and interesting costume clothing . . . not much in the realm of weapons which would shatter the balance of the game. (Primarily because the balance was already pretty broken if you could beat the shooting gallery.)

    – Team Fortress 2: MannCo keys. And I’m passing on those until I can get a job again. Annoying but the crates aren’t timed so I can let them sit until I’m ready. Or someone can trade me keys for Vintage gear again. The contents of the crates don’t appear to be game-breakingly dangerous or unusual; you can remain competitive and have fun without them (I do, mostly). But they’re neat and shiny.

    – Dungeons and Dragons Online: Various mission packs which contain specific and unique loot which alters the flow of the game, but MAY possibly be unlocked if you feel like grinding a lot to earn the points alternatively. Otherwise looking at hundreds of dollars to unlock the whole content. Considering the game this was based on, the tabletop game, and how much it cost to get extra published material . . . THAT’S GETTING OFF LIGHT compared to the source. Still . . .

    – GuildWars: Unlock packs, or upgrades for bonus content released on other versions of the games. Seriously. I can pay $10 and get access to the extras included with the Game Of The Year edition, or $5 to unlock all the skills I would otherwise need to spend in-game resources on (resources which are, in fact, not hard to come by I should add). Costumes which change the character model for $5, but give no benefit. On the other end are their recent addition: for $10, I can set up an alternate character on my account as a NPC to take along. Yes, this alters the balance of the game slightly in PvE play, but examined closely it allows you to essentially skin a generic hero slot with your alternate’s appearance and name . . . which is DAMN cool in my opinion. I just won’t pay for it just yet.

    – Pokemon: Every generation, I wind up having to make a friend get the other game for access to Pokemon which are in my code, but not available for an arbitrary reason. It’s pretty bad later on, too, with the roster growing by roughly 100 new mon in each generation. In Generation 4, the “Pokewalker” was introduced which had more content available through it which had to be unlocked by using it. In Generation 5, the “Dream World” internet flash game has broader content unlocked similarly, but it also permits a player to get around the “exclusive to [Version]” tag, as most of the “exclusives” are up there. Oh, and then there’s these 6 or so Pokemon not available unless you happen to be in a certain set of places on a certain day and are GONE FOREVER if you aren’t able to make or or not even aware of it. (At least one Pokemon has not been released within two Generations thus far, and one Pokemon had code in the game to reach it but the ‘key’ was never released.)

    On the scale of these, I find DDO being my worst, GuildWars being okay with me, and Pokemon the most infuriatingly infuriating . . . thingy . . . crap, I got pissed off again thinking I still can’t fill the damn Pokedex. Anyway, DLC comes in so many different flavors, I rather prefer those I can “opt out of” and not worry about significant impacts I could be missing on my gameplay. Pretty much what people said so far, but . . . it’s worth repeating again and again.

    • GiantRaven says:

      It may be irritating, but at least Game Freak don’t make you pay for event Pokémon and similar things.

    • some random dood says:

      One thing to note in there – DDO is a free client; the DLC is their *only* source of money, which they are upfront about. (Yes, I know they also sell a subscription model, but this didn’t make them enough money for the game to survive.) So I don’t lump it under the same category as a game you pay for, and then the company try to nickel and dime you on top. (My personal view on this, your mileage may vary.)

      • Stranger says:

        Oh believe me, I understand it. GuildWars being subscription-free itself, manages to make an interesting amount of money off the extra items as well. I can see the company’s side of the matter. And as I said, DDO’s method is still cheaper than what it was to get a pen-and-paper module for 3rd Edition.

        It does not mean I have to like it as a consumer :) But then, I respond by not buying it, voting with my wallet.

  14. You make a good point as to why Valve didn’t attach this to the L4D series instead. I wouldn’t have bought anything mind, but I play that game like everyone else plays TF2 – i.e. I’ve easily locked in more hours in that series than all the other games I’ve ever played in my life…combined. It just seems like the more sensible format rather than portal. I can only deduce the decision is based around the assumption that P2 is gonna have a asston more people playing it.

  15. Danath says:

    It’s also funny you mention how Valve has branched out… their rushed L4D2 sequel offended me so much (I got it for free for Christmas, logged about 10 hours in the game and then uninstalled it in disgust) that I haven’t bought Portal 2 because of it, and won’t until it goes on a huge sale. And I’ve bought pretty much everything valve has released since the original half life up until that point.

    But that’s not really DLC related. What IS however is the complaint that people can’t dislike something without having played it first. You lambasted review bombers for not having played the game… yet you have stated people can have opinions on a game they haven’t played that are based on marketing/what the game DOES have.

    And frankly, while I think review bombing is dumb, they do have a legitimate complaint. The hats are grossly overpriced for a portion of the game that is NOT designed right now to be endlessly repeatable like games such as L4D or TF2. DLC in TF2 made sense, the game was CHEAP, free, 5 dollars, 20 bucks, whatever, enormous awesome communities, lots of free updates, and hey if you want to spend a bit more, mannco keys and hats and all kinds of glorious stuff. Portal has none of this, the hats are a money grabbing, and it’s a little offensive that they release knick knacks for such a high price for such a short portion of the game that does not have much replayability. Puzzles are usually only good for one go except for the TRULY devoted who will always be interested in finding that one better route. Action based games tend to shift and change and as such are “always” providing new experiences and challenges, and the joy of triumphing over your fellow man.

    I can hate Portal 2 for releasing stupid poorly planned/thought out, expensive DLC, even if it has no effect on the game itself. I can hate them for failing economics, something Valve is usually very good at. I can hate them for any reason under the sun, and none of them are truly stupid unless I hate them just to hate them. And even then, there might be a good reason for it. Remember, this isn’t a 20 dollar game you are paying for, this is a full price release with day 1 DLC that is stupid. I don’t care that I don’t get it free, but it should be priced to reflect the fact that I already paid a large amount for this game and the multiplayer is short.

    In THIS case, having to pay such a high price for such a tiny addition to such a short portion of the game is what’s so bad about it. This is unlockable territory, much like beating RE5 and getting to unlock alternate outfits for Sheva and Redfield. A nifty addition for a game that doesn’t really have alot of replay value.

    That’s just my opinion though.

    • GTRichey says:

      Only these complaints are largely unfounded. Claims of 4 hours worth of gameplay for example are just insane. These people aren’t just criticising what is known about the game they’re making things up, which is not ok. It’s also different attaching a score to such things.

      Criticism of announced, unreleased games is a good thing. When developers/publishers announce things about a game (esp. in an established series) that people don’t like they need to make noise about it. It may not change anything but if enough people make noise about a series they like being arguably dumbed down we just might be heard eventually.

      • Someone says:

        The four hours gameplay thing is probably the result of Steam’s broken “Time Played” counter, which always seems to show a decreased value. RPS had a whole article on this a few days ago.

        I can personally attest to this, as my shown gameplay time count for TF2 is ~600 hours, while adding together the times played as each class (shown INGAME, separately) brings ~1000 hours.

        • GTRichey says:

          I was just using the four hours as one example. Looking at the complaints again, it’s a completely different beast than commenting on information given about upcoming games. Complaints like “i don’t wanna pay for things that I ACTUALLY PAYED FOR.” are nothing more than self-entitle bs. Especially when talking about purely cosmetic content. Nowhere when preordering or purchasing Portal 2 did Valve advertise ‘Free Hats!’.

          I’m just saying that this is very different to something like Shamus’ posts about details we’ve heard for ME3.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Yeah, one small problem – nobody HAS to pay for the hats. Don’t like it – don’t buy it.

      • How ironic that your largest article could have been replaced entirely by this comment alone.

      • Danath says:

        I never said anything about HAVING to pay for the hats, I can still be disgusted by the price they ARE charging for the hats, as I stated in my big long wall of text post. For a full price game, I expect better value from the things I have to pay for, hell I get more value from the stupid dragon age DLCs for the *same price*.

        And I hated those DLC’s.

        I never have to pay for hats, but I can criticize how they went about implementing it thank you.

    • Max says:

      “I can hate them for failing economics, something Valve is usually very good at.”

      lol, this is too funny. So selling hats and making a ton of money means they failed economics? I guess good economic strategy is to make the least amount of money possible?

      • Danath says:

        Yes, it’s better economics and creates better customer value to offer something MANY people want for a price hey are all willing to pay, as opposed to a premium price where few will ever see it or care to pay for it.

        • Drexer says:

          Do you have the data to ensure that the Price/Demand curve has an elasticity>1 ? Otherwise you might just want to shut up because for all you know Valve might be operating very near the optimal prize point and/or the optimal price might be even higher.

          • Danath says:

            Did you really tell me to shut up?

            Do you have the data to prove me wrong? Then shut up.

            Judging by the feedback they are receiving on this DLC, it is nowhere near the “optimal” price point. I can get more content, better content, from other games DLC for the same price, and people STILL consider those rip offs.

            Don’t quote the damn price/demand curve at ME, this is the internet, the price/demand curve is ALWAYS elastic. In fact their OWN DATA says so, and god damn if I’m going to go through the effort to link you the information they have provided themselves on sales to price cuts, with sales increasing by thousands of % with 75% price cuts. Naturally DLC, while slightly more inelastic due to people having to OWN the game, also means it’s a harder sell if it adds no value. You must price it at a point where people want it, and if only the minority want it, you have made a stupid “premium” item only, which earns you a few bucks, and no customer value. And if you WANT a premium item, you need to have a lower offering as well in order for that premium item to BE premium, otherwise it’s just an overly expensive toy. Shamus’s own next post mentions that in regards to chips, which is a physical good.

            Actually, I will link something. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/02/left-4-dead-sees-3000-jump-in-sales-on-steam.ars

            I have explained why they are poorly designed, and either you refute me or provide a counter argument and/or at least some anecdotal evidence that would refute my point. Frankly even if this WERE the optimal price point, and I’m not faulting them for going for easy money, it would still be better on a customer relationship scale to use a lower price. I could go into a big ass essay twice as long as my earlier comment going into specific details on why the lower price for this DLC would be superior, but I just don’t feel like putting in that kind of effort. Valve does not live on the prices of it’s games or DLC… it lives off the VALUE of them, and this DLC does not add true “value”. Money grabs do not endear you to players and will most likely hurt you in the long term, and just because a minority of people are willing to pay for it does not mean it is a resounding success.

            To sum it up, people bitch less when they are less offended by something, and the amount of bitching being put out on this relatively minor piece of DLC is a gigantic red flag.

            God, this post was 3 sentences and I kept feeling a need to expand on it.

            • Jonn says:

              Did it occur to you that since price reductions are viewed positively, while price increases are viewed negatively, you generally want to start as high as you can justify?

              This is a store in which prices can easily be changed, and practically speaking, can only be lowered. Early adopters pay the premium, then the price drops for the main consumer body.

              Nothing revolutionary about that.

              Remembering this is the opening price, which is not necessarily permanent, this may well be the best price point. You don’t know any better than I do, and claims of ‘lower prices always mean happier customers’ are over simplified at best.
              There are no shortage of people who skip over anything ‘too cheap’ as it clearly must be low value, regardless of any other factors.

              I’m not saying that you are wrong, but I am saying that your tone is arrogant. If all this comes back to bite Valve, if it doesn’t all end with people getting over their indignation, feel free to say “I told you so” to anyone who cares to listen.

              On the off chance you turn out to be proven incorrect, perhaps some restraint is in order? Not everyone is (equally) upset about this.

              • Danath says:

                Let me know how often you see DLC change price for anything other than a really temporary sale on a special holiday. (Hint: It pretty much never ever does)

                Also not upset over the issue, more annoyed at the guy who told me to shut up if I didn’t have any proof, without providing any proof of his own. I then substantiated my claims, which got out of hand, so I cut myself off there.

                And lastly lower prices creates happy customers wasn’t what I meant. I said it creates additional customer value, it’s one of many things that do, and there’s reasons for it that I don’t want to make another wall of text of. Suffice to say DLC is not a ferrari, unless you offer tiers of DLC, charging it at a premium is a fundamentally wrong way to do DLC.

                • Jonn says:

                  I recall seeing DLC for some old games lower in price, but yeah, fair point about that.

                  The point on customer value – assuming for a moment that applies for absolutely everyone – may be specific to games, perhaps. If it isn’t, do people with a view similar to yours feel an identical sense of outrage at scalpers, hotel mini-bars, venues that charge far more during (non-holiday) special events, etc.?

                  Simply trying to understand where all the (perceived) anger and entitlement stems from.

                  For the record, viewed as an item shop, I agree the pricing is horrendous. Instead I see a way to pay the developer more and get -something- in return, which is purely a subjective value judgement.
                  As much as I don’t like that DLC is becoming a ‘default’ way for big publishers to overcharge and claim “it is worth exactly what the customer to pay for it” I still don’t feel any annoyance or frustration at JUST the high prices.

                  They made a sensible business move, I want them to stay in business so I can buy more games from them, and ‘that is that’ from my perspective.

                  • Danath says:

                    I do too, but L4D2 offended me, alot of my goodwill has evaporated due to the mistakes of that game, and I don’t really care for the obvious money grabbing form this DLC took. I feel no entitlement to get it, but I still do not approve of the pricing structure and don’t think it adds any real value for CUSTOMERS, even if it adds profit for Valve.

                    It’s sensible in a monetary sense, but I don’t feel they get much good reputation boosts from it, and therefore there is no added value for it. Value and profit are separate things.

                    Customer value applies to everything, not just games, a company needs to ask “what do the consumers of my product get out of this?” and if all you can say is “we make lots of money”, then it’s being done wrong. Valve hasn’t become the big name it is for nickle and diming customers, it’s gotten this way out of great games, for great value. This DLC undermines that position, decreases customer value (Incredible negative publicity and opinion on the DLC). In fact I never see ANYONE argue positively in favor of the DLC other than to say “they can charge what they want cause they make money!” And that is not what I’m arguing at all. Nobody went “awesome! Hats!” They went “WHAT? 5 DOLLARS FOR A HAT?”

                    This isn’t about developer getting something in return for the here and now, it’s about the long term consequences of it.

                    The lack of positive feedback from consumers is the problem, the price is a large part of this, thus my focus on it.

  16. silver says:

    I doubt procedural test chambers are the best way to make the multiplayer game last indefinitely.

    A capture the “flag” game with portal guns and weighted storage cubes (and buttons and fizzlers and a few good stompy things for fun), on the other hand? (Note: need some way to ‘steal the ball’) On the kind of field where you need to pass the cube or have teammates shoot flingers for you (which I imagine would take some skill, hitting where someone else’s jump is going to land)? It would take a while, maybe a few false starts, to make the right field, the right balance of rules… but then add a capacity to watch other people play like we can with televised sports, and I can see leagues and tournaments. Like basketball to TF2’s football – smaller teams of equally equipped players instead of teams of specialists, and rules against violence instead of encouraging violence. New DLC: matching team jerseys, team logos for their halves of the field.

    • Chris says:

      I was thinking Capture the Flag when I was reading the article.
      Perhaps the gravity gun could affect other players directly? (Either pushing them or dropping the blall?)

      • SolkaTruesilver says:

        Having the game where you post turret guns around to trap and kill the other team is interesting.

        Indiscriminating turret guns, off course. Just to makes things interesting..

  17. Chris says:

    The Portal 2 hat DLC is fine by me, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If you don’t like the price, don’t buy it. Big companies only listen to money, if they aren’t getting any they will change, either bringing the price down or injecting more awesome into hat DLC. I will be buying Portal 2 when it comes down in price in a year or so, just like I did with the Orange Box.

    Activision’s Kotick has already expressed a desire to have cutscenes sold separately.

    Can’t wait, I can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed a cutscene in a game.

  18. ima420r says:

    They need to get a test chamber creator out there for everyone to make their own and upload them for others to play. Might not work well on consoles though, but I’m sure if a game like Little Big Planet can work, Portal 2 test chambers could work too.

  19. Making procedural test chambers is easy. Making procedural test chambers where players don’t subconsciously reverse engineer the procedural algorithm to the point that on their 15th test chamber they can simply perform the solution after a brief glance at the layout is the hard part. “Seeing through” the procedures on a landscape generator may be annoying, seeing through them with Portal would be fatal.

    • woofty says:

      Personally I think you may have a point. Also, how integral are the, “tests,” to the story? If they are any way tied to the story, you’d wind up with a lot of disconnected parts.

  20. Corsair says:

    Those people who were upset about the way StarCraft II was handled confuse the hell out of me. The people complaining about Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void being expansion packs – you people, did you complain about Brood War, which was…oh, yeah, exactly the same thing?

  21. Alexander The 1st says:

    The major issue I have with the Portal 2 DLC is, from what I understand, it charges $5 PER HAT OR GESTURE.

    I can understand why they go for the $5 mark – credit card/paypal transaction charges make anything less than that not really worth the cost of business unless it’s done in bulk per month, but is there no way they could’ve done “hat packs”, with say, 15 hats for $5? The price of admission is not worth the value given, and it just feels like excessive price gorging (Especially considering volume returns of investments, unless they pay a modder $24 for a 3-hour hat creation, and expect only 5 people to pay).

    $15 map packs, I am okay with, because there’s a lot of content created. The maps are usually much larger than a hat (I would hope), and playtested on top of that. But even then, do they only sell one map for $15 each? I hope not.

    This is probably the reason people dislike the Portal 2 DLC over anything else. Yes, we want the hats/gestures – no, we do not want to pay about a sixth of the price of the game just to get ONE hat or ONE gesture, when there are thirty or more the things, or whatever.

    • Ranneko says:

      They do have packs.

      But they end cost is still pretty high. You are paying about half the price of the game itself to buy the complete bundle of all hats, skins, flags and gestures.

  22. Steve says:

    “If other players want to pay for this DLC and the company is willing to sell it, why do you feel the need to demand that the transaction not take place?”

    Because this time I got lucky: They are charging for stupid stuff only stupid people would buy, that took approximately zero time to implement.

    If it gets left alone to fester and grow into a business plan, I might not be so lucky next time.

    The crazed review bomber is your friend. He might not know it, but he is fighting for YOU.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Id rather have someone competent to support my cause,thank you very much.

      Also,Id rather have this type of dlc copied by everyone else,then them thinking people dont want just skins as extra content,and continue with adding game breaking equipment.

  23. Rack says:

    ^In which case bomb the guys that let it fester. Bomb EA for locking off characters and respeccing, bomb Ubi for locking off a section of the game, Bomb Bethesda for doing this 5 fricking years ago.

    As for myself though I’m offended by the idea that Valve are exploiting suckers. It’s shifting them from the friendly guys that release TF2 updates for free for years, into EA/Ubi/Activision territory. I’m not at all happy about that, but fortunately I have more than 2 states so I din’t have to slip straight into “Raarghh, kill Valve” mode. I’m suddenly way more concerned over the dominance of Steam though.

  24. JPH says:

    I’ve noticed this happen three times with Experienced Points; first Shamus posts a rant about something, then a week later he posts an article responding to people’s comments about his rant.

    First it was the whole litigation thing, then the rant about the New Vegas save game glitch, and now this.

  25. Ace Calhoon says:

    I think you need to reread that article on Activision selling cutscenes, because I really don’t think it says what you think it says. From context in this article (and a previous one you wrote) it sounds like you’re implying that the cutscenes would be removed entirely from the game unless a user paid additional money. The article doesn’t lead to this conclusion:

    “Kotick calls the people that would purchase such a product ‘enthusiast consumers,’ because they’re willing to watch cinematics again even though they might have already beaten a copy of the game they’re from.”

    The key word here is “again,” as in they’ve already watched the movies once when they beat the game.

    It is later compared to WarCraft III:

    “This really isn’t all that new of an idea, aside from the digital distribution aspect of it, as Blizzard released a cutscene collection on DVD called the Blizzard Collection in 2002 long before Kotick was associated with the developer.”

    Again, an example where the cutscenes were still included in the game, but ALSO sold on DVD.

    The system described in the article that you’re linking would be much more benign than the Portal DLC. It would have no impact on either the single or multiplayer game. It would not impose additional DRM restrictions on playing the game. It would not replace any existing in-game system (such as unlockables).

    And yet you’re article strongly suggests that this would be a worse state of affairs than the Portal 2 DLC. What am I missing here?

  26. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I like one comment that has been made on The Escapist forum:

    Since the Day 1 DLC proposed by Valve is:

    1- Useless
    2- A tad pricy
    3- Helps out with the firm’s profit

    I see it as some sort of tip potential from the company. If you feel you want to pay a 5$ extra for this game just to thank Valve for your gaming experience, then do so.

    I like the whole concept. Plus, you can only buy these AFTER the campaign is over. So..

  27. Atle says:

    Rude behavior.

    That’s what I think it is. You pay good money for a game, then they set up shop in your game, begging for more money. That’s rude, and people react to it.

    • Jonn says:

      You paid good money to buy the store in the game. Regardless if it isn’t what you expected, it isn’t a ripoff just because you don’t like it.

      Consider: how exactly is this different to buying a book, then saying “I don’t like this chapter, I should be able to buy the book without it for less”?
      I know it IS different. More important to any meaningful discussion is reasoning for why you feel this way.

      For all intents and purposes, this is a tip jar. If you like the game, put in $5 or such. Maybe you can make an argument that this isn’t fair to completionists, depending on some tricky definitions.

      Saying that they are begging for money, simply does not make any sense to me. You can ignore it, and nothing bad happens to you. Moreover, if you don’t SPECIFICALLY LOOK FOR IT, it has zero affect on you. And those who want to tip Valve get to do so for a trivial reward, which you won’t miss, the game is not made less for its inclusion.

      What, exactly, is it that you and others think is so bad, and rude, about a company (which is legally defined as a for-profit group) trying to make a profit? Plenty have said X is bad as it is just to make money, but why is that bad?

  28. […] had a post a couple of days ago discussing the outrage of certain gamers over the day-one DLC in Portal 2. […]

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